Sunday sevens #10 20.12.15

Sunday sevens is a weekly blog series in association with Natalie at Threads & Bobbins.

‘Special’ Christmas card production line  
 Well if the technological option has let me down (or at least my operation of the technology) I’ll go back to what I can do!  Scrap the home produced printed versions and bring out the watercolours! I have to say it was so nice to be able to sit calmly one morning in amongst the chaos of end of term plays, parties and concerts and just play with my paints guilt free (because they were necessary!).

Christmas cards … Tick!  And for the other 50+ recipients on my Christmas card list, sadly it was shop bought ones this year. But they are all in the post now and sigh, it feels like a weight has been lifted! Aaahhhh!

A parcel for me!  I love it when crafty things arrive here and these little beauties took a rather circuitous route south to Gibraltar. I’d been hunting for some fabric to complete a WIP patchwork quilt for a young man in my life as well as fabric for other projects and on reading a Sunday sevens post from fellow blogger Nana Cathy some weeks ago about her trip to a wonderful looking fabric shop in Harrogate I browsed their website and found just what I was after. An inconvenient consequence of living so far away means that shipping costs can often be very expensive, so I arranged to have the parcel shipped to an office Mr Postcard often visits in London. Unfortunately his pre-Christmas trip to London got cancelled so the parcel sat on a desk in London going nowhere until a kind colleague visiting Gibraltar this week brought it for me in her hand luggage. Thank you Mariana from The Copper Kettle blog for bringing it over for me! Once Christmas has passed, I shall set to work on the quilt :-).

Another beautiful sunset 

 I rarely pass the Europa Point lighthouse in the evening but on Tuesday, our trip between football training and a piano lesson took us that way. Dusk was approaching and the lighthouse looked very atmospheric with a backdrop of misty clouds shrouding the hills of Morocco across the Straits. The photo I took unfortunately didn’t quite do it justice. The sunset which happened literally minutes later was a real beauty, I just wish I’d had the time to sit down and  fully appreciate the colours before dashing off to our next engagement.

Panic!  There has been a bit of baking going on in the Postcard kitchen this week. In amongst the chaos of end of term and the Christmas countdown I had a moment of sheer panic when I ran out of icing sugar at 9:45pm… Morrisons shuts at 10… The cakes needed to be at school for the cake stall at 9am the following day… Would I get there in time?!! Yes, yes I did- phew! A lie down in a darkened room was required!

Gibraltar gets ready for a winter party  

 Saturday (yesterday) saw the Winter Party come to Casemates Square in Gibraltar culminating in a Queen tribute act on stage. There was music and dancing, craft stalls and other entertainment on offer.  It showcases something Gibraltar is really good at – putting on events. Despite being such a small place, we have Calentita!, Summer Nights, National Week and the Gibraltar Music Festival in summer and the Gibraltar Literary Festival and Christmas Light switch on in autumn. There really is rarely a dull moment around here!

Wonky weather … nasturtiums in December!  

 
I’ve been reading and hearing about how mild the weather is at the moment in Britain. Well it’s been unseasonably mild here too. I think 22 degrees C was mentioned one day this week as a high. It does mean that it doesn’t feel very Christmassy, well we never get frost and snow, but it’s normally a good deal cooler than it is right now. One happy accident of the warmer temperatures we’re experiencing is that my pot of nasturtiums has bloomed for a third time, these blooms are coming from the seeds dropped by the second flush of flowers in late summer/ early autumn. They are haphazardly climbing up the back of the bench on our balcony. 

A tale of two weekends

  
We’ve had quite a busy time of it lately. I thought that the transition from half to full school days would bring with it an element of routine. I was half right – it’s been routinely chaotic. Over the long summer holiday I forgot about the after school activities which go hand in hand will full days restarting. It’s been a merry-go-round of football training, cubs, piano lessons, football matches, scouts and school choir. Swimming lessons haven’t even started yet! I’ve been rushing around, chasing my tail to keep up with all of our commitments. 

For most of the past two weeks we have had visitors over from the UK (my husband’s parents) which has been a blessing, as they’ve been around to help and I didn’t have to drag all the children out with me to all the activities. It’s a real shame that our boys miss out on regular family time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousin. It is of course an unfortunate consequence of us upping sticks and moving to a different country. We have to make the most of the short time we do get to have together, so they were very much immersed in our busy and at times chaotic family life (I think they were glad to go home for a rest though!). It was a much needed chance for us to catch up on all the news from back home and also meant we had the perfect excuse to head over the border at the weekend and broaden our horizons a bit. 

Unfortunately a football training session and pre-season friendly match cut short the amount of time we could spend away from Gibraltar, so last Saturday we took a short walk across the border to our nearest neighbour La Linea. We had a short mooch around the market (which sells gorgeous olives and has the most amazing fresh fish stalls) and stopped for a lunch of bocadillos in Café Modelo. I’m afraid I forgot to take any pictures of La Linea to show you where we went, I’ll do that next time!
  
I can only offer you a view of Gibraltar from the Spanish side of the frontier for now….

A late afternoon pre-season friendly meant that we couldn’t stray too far on Sunday so we headed west to the picturesque town of Tarifa. Being mainland Europe’s most southerly point and what seems like the windiest place in the world it’s a haven for tourists and fans of wind dependent sports like kite-surfing. The outer town which comprises of concrete apartment blocks belies the fact that further into town is an exquisite gem of Moorish architecture. We approached it via the Puerta de Jerez, the old town’s traditional entrance.

 

 The old town is captivating – I always enjoy visiting and wandering it’s old cobbled streets.

 

Some are very narrow indeed!  
 
It pays to look upwards too, to appreciate the beautiful old architecture.

   
 
We stumbled across a very inviting bakery and bought a few goodies to sustain us on our walk around town – the croissants and cinnamon buns were delicious!
 

The town was decked out with what looked like Christmas lights but they were actually up for the festival of the Virgin of Light (Virgen de la Luz) which had taken place the day before. Apparently just 24 hours earlier the streets had been thronged with thousands of on-lookers. Instead we were greeted with tranquil almost empty streets. 

 
Close to the church of St Matthew (in the photo above) I stumbled across this gorgeous shop Babachic Beads. It was right up my street!
  

  

As you can see it was a riot of colour and the stock was comprised of artisan crafts brought in from abroad and produced by the proprietors.
  

  

I treated myself to this lovely necklace made with hand painted beads, made on the premises.

  

Our time in Tarifa was limited as a football match awaited, so we wandered just a little bit longer.

   

I loved the colour of the bougainvillea here against the white of the church and the blue of the sky. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the car and make our way back to Gibraltar.

 
We arrived in plenty of time for kick-off. There can’t be many football pitches in the world so close to an international airport!

  

This weekend, by comparison, was a far quieter affair. The boys still had two birthday parties to attend and another pre-season friendly football match but Mr Postcard decided I needed a rest, so he did the lion’s share of the ferrying children about. I found myself alone with our youngest for a couple of hours yesterday (a rare weekend occurrence) so we decided to use a gift left with us by his grandparents last week: ninja bread men pastry cutters!

   

We had fun rolling out the dough and cutting them out! 

  

They were then very artfully decorated by my little helper.

  

They tasted really good – there aren’t many left!

   

Had the ants which were bothering us a week or so ago still been resident, they would have had a field day with all that icing sugar and sprinkles (see this post for more on that). Thankfully a friend recommended a man who came and rather successfully sorted out our problem.

Today has been an equally relaxing day, although I did head out for a bit of a walk. It was my first attempt at ‘exercise’ since my little fall a couple of weeks ago (see here for more). I’m pleased to say that apart from a slightly achey ankle it went well.  Europa Road was eerily quiet because this huge crane had caused it to be closed:

 
Unfortunately, the people who closed the road didn’t offer motorists any kind of diversion signs which caused some confusion. This massive truck-cum-campervan found itself stuck when it took a detour down a road far too narrow to accommodate it. There was much shouting and honking of horns as it was forced to reverse back up a hill and round a bend while avoiding the many cars parked in the vacinity.

  
So, there you have it, we’ve reached the end of another week and we’re in October already – how did that happen?! In a bid to be more organised and to make the midweek after school activities/ mealtimes/ homework/ mummy meltdown  slightly easier I have cooked and frozen several meals for the week ahead. If it works by easing the carnage of early evenings in our house, I’ll let you know! Have a good week and thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to leave any comments, it’s great to hear from you. I’ll leave you with a picture of my September highlights.

  
  
  

Reading; the gift that keeps on giving! An appreciation of teachers.

  


I have been very fortunate and spent a wonderful morning immersed in books. It began with listening to children read at school, then continued with some time tidying the school library. It culminated with me finishing my current book, just in time for my book club meeting tonight. As the minutes ticked by I came to realise just how lucky I am…

When teachers begin the long road to reading, with letter sounds and phonics, then blending the sounds to make words, they give such power to those whom they teach. Without the ability to read, not only would life be so much more dull (as it offers a means to escape your current situation), but it’s also instrumental in laying the foundations of our modern society. Where would we be if our doctors, politicians, engineers, scientists and lawyers (to name just a few crucial professions), had never been taught to read? 

Perhaps I’m stating the blindingly obvious here but how much do we take the ability to read for granted? How powerful a tool it is to our social and mental wellbeing. So, thank you Mrs Foreman, Mr Dixon and all my other teachers who not only taught me to read and write, but also ignited my passion for reading. Without their help I wouldn’t have gone to university, had the career I did or been able to share books with my own children. In appreciation for teachers everywhere, thank you for your persistence, patience and for helping to set our imaginations free!

Back to school – the long goodbye.


I feel I may be swimming against the tide a bit here but am I the only parent happy that the school holidays are at an end? Many of my Facebook friends who are parents of school-aged children have been posting pictures and comments featuring the last few golden days of the summer holidays, lamenting the fact that they’re about to lose their children to the world of education for another academic year. Rather than sadness, my feelings are of relief that I made it through relatively unscathed!

Earlier today, whilst locking myself in the bathroom to get a few minutes peace (it didn’t work by the way) I had a chuckle to myself; my Twitter feed, rather ironically, featured several blog posts about ‘ME’ time. Coming at the end of a long, fantastically busy, although, I have to say, very good summer break – ‘ME’ time is a bit thin on the ground in our house at the moment (I’m writing this after dark when I really should be in bed myself!). And living where we do means that the return to school isn’t quite as straightforward as you might imagine. It’s not just a case of taking them all to school and dropping them off at the gates until you return mid afternoon to collect them.

Here in Gibraltar, we have an eight-week-long summer break from school. Today is the day when many (not all) children in Gibraltar returned to school. So, this morning the alarm went off at 7am for the first time in eight weeks and we set off for the first school run of the new academic year. In preparation, new school haircuts were done yesterday, the last of the sew-in name tapes were attached to uniforms last night and this morning new shoes squeaked along the road to school.

‘You lucky girl!’ you might think, ‘time for a cup of tea and to put your feet up’, but alas no. This is Gibraltar and although I do love it so, there are a few quirks about life here which if I was in charge I’d like to tweak. One thing being school intakes in September. Today was the start of the school year here, and yes I did do the school run, but for just one out of my three children and just for half a day. Tomorrow a second child goes to school and finally on Friday, all three. For some poor parents the whole sorry saga of starting school won’t begin until the middle of next week!

So that’s my first gripe, staggered start dates. Now please bear in mind that this is a completely one-sided view here. I know there must be reasons for this occurrence which help the teaching staff but for parents, especially those who work and require help with childcare, this must make things very difficult. How do those who have no support network cope?

The second thing I’d like to change is summer hours, as I’ve mentioned previously in this post, during the hottest weeks of the summer and autumn terms, school finishes any time between 11:45am and 12:45pm depending on the age of your child. In other words, that eight-week-long summer break is book-ended by a few weeks of half days. I totally understand that it gets too hot in the classrooms for children to concentrate as the schools aren’t equipped with air conditioning. I also understand that many government employees work summer hours and it wouldn’t be fair to deprive the teachers of this perk if almost everyone else in the public sector (apart from the emergency services and Health Authority workers) benefited from it. After all, if I’d spent all year looking after other people’s children and had no break between Christmas and Easter or between Easter and summer (as is the situation here) I’d want something in return! BUT it really is a pain in the neck for parents, no sooner are you back from the school morning run than it seems you are heading back out again to pick them up. I don’t have the solution, I just know that the current situation, although a long standing one, makes things tricky.

So, there you have it, a staggered start to the beginning of term and then they only go for half a day, but then there’s the issue of next week. Next week in Gibraltar we have two bank holidays, one on Monday and another on Thursday. Both are for important reasons; Monday’s is a one-off event to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Evacuation of Gibraltar when the civilian population was forced out of their homes and shipped overseas during World War 2. Thursday’s is to celebrate Gibraltar National Day and the nation’s right to self determination. Both are hugely important occasions to mark, and I whole-heartedly support them, I’m not in anyway criticizing their existence. It’s just that it does mean yet another disrupted school week… school on Tuesday, Wednesday and then Friday. Should the autumn term start date be moved back until after National Day perhaps?

As a result of the aforementioned situation school full days (ie 9am – 3:15pm or later) will not begin until Monday 14th September. So, on that day, ladies and gentlemen, after several false starts, you may catch sight of me cartwheeling down Main Street enjoying my ‘ME’ time and perhaps feeling a little bit guilty about wishing away the late summer days with my three wonderful, energetic, challenging and exhausting boys!

PS I do know just how blessed and privileged I am to have my boys (and I love them to bits) but crikey it’s been a long summer and I’m just about ready for another holiday!